• One Love: Harare, Zimbabwe

    June 27th 2016. CAC volunteer Carrie Taylor writes about her 1st CAC experience in Harare, Zimbabwe.

    When analyzing my time in Zimbabwe through Coaches Across Continents, I keep coming back to the idea of the incredible power of sport, and in this case the sport is soccer/football. If you can mention the name Messi, Marta, Ronaldo or talk about an EPL team, you can strike up a conversation with anyone and make an instant connection.

    CAC brought me to Harare to work with the wonderful coaches of Zim through the Sports Recreation Commission via Neswten Chipoya. Newsten was quiet yet very strong in organizing people. He did a tremendous job in bringing people together and creating connections. Our zany and energetic leader for the week was Nora Dooley from CAC along with Nico who is from Tanzania whose outgoing personality and his penchant for teaching wood ball was a hit with the participants.

    As a longtime coaching educator in the US, I have had a lot of experiences with working with coaches, so going in, I was very interested in how different the CAC curriculum was and how it was to be delivered from the typical US coaching course.

    First off I was blown away by the shear number and strength of the women in the course. I was able to meet Rosemary who was the former Zimbabwe Women’s National team coach, and a some of her former players; Lillian, Bridget, Dorothy and Elizabeth to name a few. Many of whom were returning to the CAC program for the second or third time. Then we had a group of 6 female teachers from Masvingo who travelled 400k by bus to come learn how to impact their primary and secondary students in their area. All these women were strong, powerful, outspoken and well respected by every man in the course. During the week through the CAC games and group work about Gender Equality, Child Rights, and Healthy Behaviors these women made sure their opinions were heard and that they garnered respect from everyone in the course.

    A few of these women mentioned above, then came together again later after the week was done along with other female sport leaders in Zimbabwe. Nora introduced the women to CAC’s ASK for Choice Curriculum.  These women met for discussions about first how to support one another in their challenges and second to start to form a Women’s Sports Leaders Group with the support of the SRC. To be apart of these discussions was great for me, as we have similar challenges in the US and I have been active lately in the growth of the female voice in soccer back home.

    Another one of the key people who not only drove us around all week, but made it a goal to make sure that we were able to watch the Euros at the local pub was Julius. Julius was the epitome of the power of sport. During the week we found out that Julius had lived recently and gone to school in Leipzig, Germany, was a PE teacher and coach at Cornway College, which is a private school outside of Harare.  Julius also was graduate of the University of Zimbabwe.  Besides liking Man U, 😉 Julius was a wonderful, thoughtful and kind host. He showed us the underlying passion, spirit and drive of many of the coaches we met in Harare. We were able to meet a few of his players during the week and very much saw the mutual respect and caring between Julius and the young men that he coaches.

    Then there was Wisdom, whose contagious energy, passion and zest for soccer was evident from the smile and joy he exuded every time you were around him. When playing a CAC adapted game that we would typically identify as “Partner Steal the Bacon”, instead of being given a number your groups of two were identified first by issues surrounding child rights, such as child abuse, child labor, early marriage. Then the game switched and your group was identified by a solution to the issues, such as education, or communication. Wisdom’s group wanted Love to be the solution.  This solution struck a chord with me.

    LOVE, and in this case our common love of soccer brought this amazing group of coaches together for a week. Love for our players, love for competition, love for the world sport of soccer. This experience was nothing like the coaching courses that I teach back home. Sure we shared your basic soccer activities for kids, but real social issues were discussed, and more importantly people shared their love and passion for the game and made friendships and connections that hopefully they will carry with them forever. I feel fully confident that each participant will apply something that they learned from this week and utilize it in their own environment. I will take home new friendships, a new dance or two, a couple words of Shona, and a much deeper appreciation for the world through love for the beautiful game.

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  • I’m Here, I Want To Play

    CAC SDL Coach Turner Humphries blogs on renewing acquaintances with Slum Soccer in Haryana, India.

    November 12th 2015. Stepping out of the Delhi airport I could see a tall man with wide eyes and an even wider smile making his way through the crowd of people towards me. The sign he had made to find me was folded up in his hands. After seeing me glance at it he said, ‘You look like a CAC coach so I didn’t even need this!’ His name is Homkant, and the two of us would be spending a lot of time together. From Delhi we had a two hour drive to Haryana were the coaching program would be held. Once we arrived at the house we would be staying at we both dropped our bags in the room and sunk into bed. He had arrived into Delhi not long before me; making the trek from Nagpur, a twenty two hour train ride away. The two of us were sharing a bed in a room lined with posters of Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar. With the eyes of some of footballs greats looking down on us we drifted to sleep, the next day would mark the start of the program with around thirty young leaders from Haryana.

    As always we began with Circle of Friends, a game designed to allow everyone to get to know one another as we warm up our bodies and voice. The first time Circle of Friends is played both participants and coach are feeling each other out. Participants new to the concept of sport for social impact are most likely wondering what a ‘boomshakalaka’ is and why I want them to do something called the Koo Koo dance. Before leaving for the field I was briefed by the local partners that female empowerment would be the main issue for the training, as girls are actively discouraged from playing football in their community. As Circle of Friends took off I noticed that girls were only interacting with girls and boys with boys. After pointing this out to the group everyone gave a light hearted laugh and agreed to mix it up. For some of the participants this was their first time playing football with the opposite sex. What was first nervous energy became real enjoyment and excitement as the participants learned how much they shared in common. It turns out both girls and boys really like Barcelona and Messi. Later in the session Homkant came up to me and said, ‘You and I, we know that girls and boys playing together is good. But some of the local coaches here are upset that the girls are mixing with the boys. They told me they will not bring there girls team to our training again.’ After hearing this I was deflated. To me this seemed incredibly unfair to the girls, as someone else was dictating under what circumstances they could play.

    The next day sure enough we were without nearly twenty female participants. However, the following day two girls appeared back at the field. They told me their coach had threatened to kick them off the team if they went back to the training. They didn’t seem bothered by their coaches severe threat. Putting her hands up in the air one of the girls said, ‘I want to play…so I’m here.’ Sometimes teenagers are smarter than adults.

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  • Beautiful Mountains, Beautiful People, Beautiful Game

    July 15th 2015. Volunteer coach Mike Mazzullo, from New York City, joins fellow Columbia University ’12 alum Nora Dooley on-field in South Africa and Malawi. He writes here about our recent training near Cape Town:

    The first sign that I’m a visitor to South Africa: it’s hard to stop looking out the window. There is no shortage of natural beauty. Landscapes of mountain and vineyards and ocean surprise the eyes at every turn. People buzz alongside highways, walking to work, selling wares, looking for a hitch-hike, and perilously crossing major roads. Different communities pass by, some idyllic, some not.

    Each morning I’m sobered by the disparity between living conditions for the wealthy and the poor. It is hard to overestimate the gap between townships and suburban enclaves. I think of the homeless on Park Ave. Such inequality just doesn’t feel right.

    We arrive in Khayelitsha, the location of CAC’s 2nd-year program for the Western Cape. Cars full of participants arrive and filter into the gym that is our home for the week. Good-bye to any sadness from the morning ride’s sights. Five minutes with the participants fill that space with hope and laughter.

    The participants are a mixture of local community leaders and coaches. training4changeS, the implementing partner, brings their crew of seven coaches. Girls and Football SA brings four, all female. Dumi represents City Mission. There are many others, each with his or her own story and sense of purpose.

    Every day a participant’s story floors me. Take Keke’s. His experience is all too common.

    We are united by the idea that soccer can be a force for positive change in the world around us.

    And the participants brought, along with their enthusiasm and football skills and jokes, problems from their communities. Let me talk about one.
    …………………………..
    Gang violence recurred throughout the week. People spoke of the allure of gangs in offering economic opportunity, how gangs can become a family for those who have none, and how gangs entrap children at a young age. These conversations carried glazed looks, suggesting firsthand exposure. It didn’t take me long to notice graffiti of “28” and “26” – prominent local gangs – marking some buildings and traffic signs.

    …How can soccer deal with such an issue?

    I forgot to mention Nora Dooley. She’s CAC staff leading the program, and happens to be awesome. Nora coached the game called “Say No to Gang Violence”. CAC had originally designed the game to confront human trafficking in Indonesia.

    The set-up is simple. Each corner of the field (or gym) has a coned square box. These will represent what happens when you are “stuck” in gangs. Group discussion identifies the effects of gangsterism. It could be violence, theft, drug abuse, whatever the group thinks.

    Next, the discussion moves to how gangs attract youth in the first place. Three “taggers”-people holding cones- represent the methods of entrapment. It could be involving kids in petty crime, the legacy of an older sibling’s involvement, financial reward and social status, whatever the group thinks.

    The game is for the “taggers” to catch everyone else and send them to the boxes, which represent the harmful effects of gangsterism. It’s a pretty powerful image.

    Next we talk solutions. Are there safe spaces, ways out of gangs, strategies for avoiding them in the first place? Lots of conversation and ideas.

    Nora introduces cones and soccer balls as symbols of safe spaces/deterrents/escape routes – you can’t get tagged if you have the ball. Share the round thing and help others! It’s another powerful image, that football can save youth.

    The game continues with more progressions, further confronting the main question of: What can we do about it? Ultimately the coaches and local organizations will decide.
    ………………

    One of the t4c coaches, Sylvester, imparted an African proverb:”If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

    I think the mingling of various groups will have a long-term return. In any field – business, education, sport or whatever – ideas stale. One benefit of a CAC program is the ability to bring diverse people together.

    Even nonprofits can succumb to one-mindedness, but these organizations of the Western Cape saw each other as partners and allies. The biggest divisions in Khayelitsha emerged over Man Utd vs Arsenal, Kaizer Chiefs vs. Orlando Pirates, Ronaldo vs. Messi.

    And on the car ride back to Stellenbosch, again seeing the gamut of natural beauty and human experience, I thought less about passing strangers and more about the CAC participants.

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  • The Great Chamwino

    December 12, 2014. Volunteer Coach from Germany, Frederick Schwarzmaier, joins fellow countryman Markus Bensch as well as Kelly Conheeney in Tanzania. He writes about his first experience On-Field with CAC in Chamwino. 

    Before any coaching session could start on Monday morning, we visited the District Executive Director of Chamwino, a highly respected woman. After introducing ourselves, Markus took a few minutes to talk about Coaches Across Continents as an organization and our approach in this community. As expected, she gave her consent for the program and we headed towards the local soccer pitch on motorbike-taxis with great anticipation and a box of new footballs. At arrival, reality quickly tempered us as only eight coaches showed up. Nico, the Community Impact Coach of Chamwino and an amazing go-to person, confirmed that eight would be our total number for the day. Given the low number of participants, we decided to play a fun game of soccer and start with the program on Tuesday. Afterwards, we went to meet the Chairman of Chamwino in order to introduce ourselves and explain what we are going to do in the next few days in his district. For us, this meeting was very worthwhile because the Chairman introduced us to the history of Chamwino as well as Tanzania, including a proudly presented story about the nation’s first president, Julius Nyerere, who visited Chamwino on several occasions. In order to make it a successful day over all, we coached over 40 girls from a local secondary school several CAC games including Ronaldo Skills for Life, Mingle Mingle and Pairs Soccer. The girls were visibly proud that their male fellow pupils were all along gazing at them while practicing their new soccer skills.

    Gratefully, on Tuesday twelve coaches showed up, hence, we decided to begin the program. Although, the number of participants was low, we had a very intense but fun week. As there were some returning coaches from previous years, they occasionally stepped in to teach their new peers certain games or moves on their own. This also showed us the impact of our program in this community on former participants. Besides, we set the focus on Child Rights and Gender Equality as this was requested by the community and regarded as one of their biggest current challenges. This issue especially arose when we were having a discussion about the rights of a child, as this is done within every CAC program and every community. Nearly half of the participants justified hitting their pupils or other children if they weren’t paying attention in class. An additional issue was the local coaches’ cheating manner. It took several attempts to announce fairly played winners in many of the conflict games, as it seemed that they cheat out of instinct. I felt as though this challenge was successfully tackled by us in a fun learning environment. Especially for me as a newbie at CAC, these circumstances made me contemplate the local culture. I tried to slip into the coaches’ shoes in the hope that I would find the root cause to their behavior. My explanation – you could also name it presumption as I do not have a scientific proof of it – for it is that they treat their children the same way as they were treated when they were young. Having this in mind while during our program in Chamwino, I was putting myself under too much pressure in order to transform the whole community into a better place and flood it with my ideas for improvement. I quickly realized that this approach is not working out and I should rather ask questions instead of giving possible answers as the CAC curriculum suggests. This method simply proofed to me the power and sustainability of the CAC approach. Combined with the uniting power of football, this program is even more amazing than I could have ever imagined before experiencing it myself. Besides, it is not only the local coaches but also me who are learning a lot.

    On Thursday, the local coaches taught the children the CAC games they learned this week. This was a great success as one could witness the drive and joy the coaches spread during their short and individual sessions with the kids. Their attitude created a setting where children could learn, laugh, play and fail without being afraid of consequences, no matter if girl or boy. Solely, one could criticize their urge to solve little problems for the children instead of letting them gain some problem solving experience themselves, e.g. fixing the human circle when playing Circle of Friends. Overall, it was fantastic seeing them teaching the kids.

    On Friday, after the last session of the program, we handed over the certificates to each participant that turned out to be more like a closing ceremony than a simple duty. Before we handed out the certificates, a representative of the local Education Office was the guest of honor and delivered a speech about the importance of implementing the CAC games in the learning curriculum of each school. After the ceremony, the participants surprised each of us with a shirt of Tanzania’s national soccer team – a great ending of a tiring but joyful week. Shortly afterwards, under pouring rain, we headed to Dodoma City to prepare for the upcoming program.

    To put it in a nutshell, although struggling at the beginning of the week to get a sufficient number of local coaches for this year’s program in Chamwino, the week turned out to be a great success for all of us. We are confident we have made a sustainable impact on Chamwino’s community.

     

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  • Go, Slum Soccer, Go

    December 10, 2014. Volunteer, Billy Hawkey, writes about the first of two weeks back in Nagpur, India with long-time partner, Slum Soccer.


    We landed in Nagpur a little after 9 pm on Sunday night. I had heard about Slum Soccer mostly through the 2014 CAC documentary, but still knew very little about who they really were. Sophie told me that we are in the fourth year of our partnership, they have completed the Hat-Trick Initiative and are in many ways a model program. But what did that mean? I needed to see it for myself.

    As we sat in the kitchen of our guest house, 100 yards away from the all dirt pitch, like normal we discussed a plan for the week with our partner. However, this meeting was different than all the previous meetings I had been a part of over the past two and a half months.  “Ronaldo?” we asked.

    “Did it.”

    “Marta?”

    “Yep.”

    “The new Marta for Gender Equity?”

    “Yes, we played it.”

    “Wam-”

    “Bach. Yes.”

    I thought to myself, “what are we going to do this week? They know everything!” The participants for the week had just been through a two-day training conducted by the Slum Soccer coaches in which they played all the games from our Ronaldo, Marta, and Wambach role models; they played Old Trafford Tag, Scary Soccer, and more. “So they know how to coach our games?” I asked Sophie; “Oh yes” she said in a very assuring voice, “they’re creating games.”

    I was quickly starting to get a picture of the cumulative impact that CAC has on its partners. As the week progressed I would see just how self-sustaining Slum Soccer is and how deeply ingrained CAC is in their organization. But for now, as we sat in the kitchen, we needed to come up with a fresh plan for day one. We would begin with Mia Hamm day.

    As I sat in the Slum Soccer classroom on Monday morning, as participants were filing in, I looked around the room and admired the graffiti art on the wall of Wayne Rooney, Neymar, Messi and Abby Wambach; all CAC role models.

    The participants were Slum Soccer’s second batch of first year youth leaders. They were a cohesive group, who were just as passionate in the classroom discussions and activities as they were on the field. Our child rights training/discussion during the middle of the week was quite interesting. The various forms of abuse that children in Nagpur suffer from and the extreme imbalance of power between the child-adult relationship was the early focus of the conversation. For the most part, children in Nagpur do not receive respect or support from adults, and are fearful to approach them. Sexual abuse was noted to be a major issue for women in Nagpur, which shifted our discussion to the topic of rape. One man said that if a girl is wearing provocative clothing than it is her fault if she is raped. This fired up the group, both men and women, who argued otherwise, and many voices in the room weighed in on this issue, eventually reaching the consensus that it is never the victims’ fault.

    On the field the next day we played Know Your Rights, as a follow up to the strong discussion we had the day before. Players are divided into two teams, with a large circle separating the two. Five cones are evenly spread out around the outside of the circle.  Each cone represents a different child right. The group designated them as: the right to decide, the right to play sports, the right to an education, the right to information, and the right to have a voice. Two players from each team enter the circle and jog around. When the coach yells out a right, the players must run as fast as they can to the correct cone. The first team with both players to reach the cone gets a point. We played many rounds, adding more players in the circle, more complex rules, and of course, some dance moves to replace the jogging. The game was full of energy and it continued our message of child rights and why those rights are important.

    Throughout the week I enjoyed observing the Slum Soccer coaches and staff display their knowledge and understanding of the CAC methodology. From time to time the young Slum Soccer coaches would step in and help us coach, and play some of the new games that they invented including games related to voting, traffic, and keeping the environment clean.  I was impressed by the work Slum Soccer is doing, and how they have assimilated the CAC games and values for using sport for social impact into their organization. The work they are doing with local slum children is amazing, and everyone involved with Slum Soccer has bought in to the strong culture they have created.

    On Sunday we visited a farm with some Slum Soccer friends, picked sweet limes and guava fruit from the trees, hiked to a damn, and had a great home cooked chicken lunch. Throughout the day there were cries of “Marta 1!”, “Wambach 2!”, “Solve your problem!” and lots of laughter.

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  • Make your World Cup predictions today!

     

    June 2nd, 2014. It is only 10 days until the World Cup starts in Brazil with the hosts playing Croatia in the opening fixture. That means there is only 10 days to join the Coaches Across Continents World Cup prediction bracket on Indiegogo! Do you think England will deal with the heat and go all the way? Can the US beat the odds and get past Ronaldo and the Germans? Or will Brazil be celebrating a home victory? Show us your predictions!

    By making a small donation to the Coaches Across Continents programming in Brazil during the World Cup you can get CAC and soccer related gifts alongside the entry to our World Cup prediction competition on ESPN. Former US men’s soccer World Cup player Tony Sanneh and famous US soccer broadcaster Seamus Malin have already made their predictions. Now it is your turn to see if you can beat the experts!

    Your donation will go directly to the Coaches Across Continents programs in Brazil through the six coaches who will be creating sustainable social change in Brazilian favelas throughout the World Cup. While the elite players compete on the worlds biggest stage the favelas will still be very dangerous places for youth and children. Drugs, gang violence, police brutality and social unrest have been ongoing problems for the 11 million Brazilians living in these areas.

    HELP TO MAKE THIS THE REAL LEGACY OF THE WORLD CUP AND SOCCER IN BRAZIL!

     Join Today

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